On Intimacy
Jacqueline Mabey, Brooklyn, NY, 3 April 2011

Transparency is upheld and glorified as an end itself, as a good in itself. The root of this belief is no doubt good intent, that is, the search for freedom from irrational bureaucracy and power without answer. (Though, of course, this is the true face of power, the lacuna at its center.) Or, for that matter, the terrifying regime of total transparency envisioned by Julian Assange. Both are the Law of the Father, big daddy dictating what you can and cannot know. While no doubt a calculated response to the financial collapse, all this talk of transparency is anachronistic, out of synch. It’s the thinking of 18th century imperialism, the belief that things hold their meaning like flesh sticks to bones. Don’t they know that the contemporary flesh is many things?

There is a war on. We are at war and have been, for my entire adult life (for my entire life). The State makes disingenuous gestures toward revelation. Transparency presupposes a viewer, someone to confirm its holy gossamer. The look is directional. To whom do we disrobe? We, brothers and sisters, we share everything with no end in mind. To post every passing thought, to forget what is past and posted, goldfish like, this perpetual unburdening can create a confirming feedback loop. Like Narcissus transfixed by an image of himself in the limpid pool and like poor Echo, who forgot her body, forgot herself, doomed to repeat, un-world without end (amen). This is revelation without illumination. Freud the has proposed regression as a way to break doldrums. Here, again, we see a self-sustaining indulgence where play is not a radical gesture but way of sitcoms, popular psychology though those middle-management loop of pleasure. An incitement to a means to placation.

We are unnaturally shielded from discomfort, numbed. Comfort becomes related to compulsion, dis/pleasure. We return to the source again again again—it comforts no longer, did it ever? You never learn, girl. All those smarts and you’d still go back for more punishment, wouldn’t you? Just left you marked, a mark, an easy target.

To this, might I propose a different kind of encounter? Intimacy, brothers and sisters. Serious play as a timely-untimely mode of engagement with art, with each other. Proximity, to be close to one another, to be truly near and vulnerable. Intimacy allows for multiple registers and spheres, something we care for and carry with us. It implies another, others, exchange, trust that is not static but always the moment before, the moment, and the moment to come, at once. We carry intimacies differently, too, don’t we? With us throughout the day, at different times, in different spaces. Not like that brat of the bourgeois, privacy, that landed inheritance. Intimate knowledge is worn bodily in the broad light of day, mutually held but externally inscrutable. I carried your scent on my dress all day. In Chelsea, going gallery to gallery, bored, until I saw that Eva Hesse. I want to put it in my mouth. I want to put it in my mouth and suck. I want to pull the string out my teeth. I want to know it that way. Again, on the train today, the man next to me, I fell in love with the sweet face and the busy fingers, nervous. I wondered, would they find their way on my flesh, would the uncertainty remain or would my skin be the magic key. The one on the other side, the imperious look. The dimple in his chin, I want to trace it with my fingers, want to turn his face to face mine, to know what those pink, full lips taste like, to know what it would take to get those cheeks to flush red. Oh, I know we’re not supposed to touch, but I want the knowledge touching produces, piecemeal but specific. The product of cumulative, repeated presence. A weighty thing built up over time. The dance of action-reaction, experience of non-knowledge, relations pre-linguistic or the other of language. Other kinds of languages. Remember what your mother told you: if you haven’t anything to say, don’t say anything at all. Have relationships instead of talking them. Avoid the infantile babble of the comment field. Words are magic, too, they create and forestall possibility. Against pre-emptive defense, against the over-share. Wait and the weight of being in and out of time, brothers and sisters, in that shimmering, ever shifting shared space of pure possibility intimacy holds. Things halfformed and half-known. To play like adults. To pull the string knowing everything that can come undone.

• •

For Ian F. King, on his birthday.

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